Scott's Blog @ SIGGRAPH - Day 3

Posted By Scott Sindorf on August 14, 2008 12:00 am | Permalink
Day 3

After leaving the conference floor yesterday, we ended up meeting for dinner with some old dear friends I had the pleasure to work with in the past. To me, this is one of my favorite aspects of SIGGRAPH, reconnecting with old acquaintances. After dinner we went to the annual Softimage party. In the past these parties have been a way to show to the community the developments over the last year. This year for the first time they decided to do away with this and just have a party. The musician who hosted the party was none other than Vanilla Ice. The reason for this choice was to coincide with Softimage new I.C.E. (Interactive Creative Environment).  The relevance of this choice only dawned on me after the fact.

This morning I attended the computer animation festival in the new Nokia Theater.  The new format is tough to manage. Ideally I would like to see more of the animations, but it is difficult with so much else going on.  I am hoping SIGGRAPH goes back to the prior format, but I have my doubts. The Nokia Theater was projecting the images in 4K. The resolution is quite amazing and I am sure this will be the new format of choice for cinemas in the not too distant future. The downside of this is you see....everything in high detail. After finally adjusting to HD, this new format will require much more work and computing power. Technology just does not stay still. Another reason to continue to come back to SIGGRAPH.

One of the great things about SIGGRAPH is the Production Sessions. Typically, these are panel discussions about what takes place behind the scenes of computer graphic-heavy movies. I attended in the afternoon the “Machines and Monsters: Tippet and ILM Reveal the Secrets Within Cloverfield and Iron Man.” The panelists included from ILM's Ben Snow, Han Hickel, and Doug Smythe, and from Tippet Studio, Eric Leven, David Breese, and Chris Morley.

The panel first addressed J.J. Abram’s (of Lost fame),Cloverfield. This movie is basically an alien monster attacking NYC.  The budget was $25 million, which for Hollywood translates as a shoestring budget for a special effects movie. The interesting aspect of this film was it was suppose to look like a hand held camera, similar to the aesthetics of The Blair Witch Project. The challenge for Tippet Studio was how to keep this look seamlessly with the visual effects. Somehow given this budget, they were able to do this. The tracking alone for this movie was quite amazing and the resulting conversations very enlightening.

The second half of the panel addressed the visual effects of Iron Man by ILM.  They addressed the complexities of building an Iron Man, both from a practical point of view as well as well as from a perspective of computer graphics. Stan Winston Studios had built a practical suit of Iron Man, and it was ILM’s job to replicate this as a computer generated persona and create virtual sets through the use of 3D photogrammetry.  The amount of work and detail was fascinating to watch, making this panel definitely worth the effort.